A Book Journey – Chapter 3: Christmas
A monthly book study by Amy McGehee-Lee
Festivals of the Year: A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle
by Roger Druitt
We are all on common ground. We have all been born into this world. Our souls have all come to Earth and made it our home for a period of time. Druitt begins the chapter on Christmas by pointing out something I had never considered. He says, “the basis of Christmas is to cross thresholds between peoples”.
Druitt paints a picture of the nature scene unfolding during this season in much of the northern hemisphere: snow softly falling, flake upon flake, building the holy silence. He says we can inwardly equate this with souls coming to Earth, each of whom will be born during the following year. Even if we do not have this specific nature scene to prepare us for the beautiful arrival of these souls, we can hold a space for them in our heart and welcome them as they make their decent.
Druitt gives biblical context for the birth in Luke and Matthew, showing that there is a dichotomy of stories given, displaying contrasting stories surrounding of the birth of Christ. In the Gospel of St. Luke we can perceive a spiritual picture, showing how we have an opportunity to react to this child, growing bigger in our hearts. Shepherds, representative of our humanness, visit this holy child. The Gospel of St. Luke shows us the contrasting picture: “Herod wanted to hold on to power and spread fear to do so”. In this narrative, we have the story of kings, not shepherds. The kings represent world destiny, not the common individual, as represented by the shepherds. Besides Herod, we also have the three kings woven into the narrative found in Matthew. They are able to kneel before the child, without thought of aggrandizement. They are a beacon to all of humanity for serving the world, putting our gifts to work for the betterment of humanity.
Druitt brings to our attention toward the end of his biblical references that “the universal child is born into a family. The family mediates between the child and the whole of humanity, so this is the archetype of Christmas: to celebrate the family, focusing inwardly on a new birth (i.e. the birth of something new) into the family and outwardly to friends, neighbors, community, nation, race, all who live on the Earth now, all who have lived and all who will live in the future”. This sentence brought home to me the essence of Christmas, the unifying energy unfolding at this time of year. Even when I was very young, I knew that this season was about connections.
I remember walking along the street at this time of year and feeling as though I was physically connected to everyone I met or with whom I made eye contact. I knew these connections were always there, but now others seemed to realize it, as well. I remember wondering why people could not feel this connection the rest of the year. As a child, my view was beautifully simplistic. As an adult, I have more understanding of the things that blind us to these ever-present connections.
It feels as though the threads that connect us become especially visible during the Christmas season. The threads are always there, but people are able to see them or at least feel them more strongly during this time of year, if their hearts are open to this possibility. Through making real these connections, we are able to find our “true family”, as Druitt refers to it, and “wonder together quietly at the coming of light from eternity into time”.
Druitt gives us several meditative pictures upon which we can deepen our experience of Christmas. One of the meditative pictures I especially like and will consider is that of human conception. Can we exist outside of our genetic identity? Can we realize our spirit identity, fully coming into our existence as beings of God? What is it to truly be ourselves?
Druitt gives ideas for prayerful connection. I resonated with the idea of connecting our hearts with those who belong to us, even though separated by death. My mother died on December 27. This time of year, seems to carry a great deal of energetic baggage for me, as I move toward the date of her death. I miss her living presence. I have continued to enjoy Advent and Christmas, as she did. However, I find my child-like happiness tempered by the grief that finds fresh ground in my soul each year. I believe this idea of re-connection through something as simple as lighting the Christmas tree may help me find fresh meaning in Christmas. Could the separation I feel from her, especially at this time of year, be used as a means of fresh connection, albeit in a different way? I know I will continue to explore this possibility in the years to come.
Druitt goes on to talk about creating our Christmas festival. He says that we can think of the Christmas festival a plant that actually improves the soil upon which it grows. He says we can create an Advent table and then through our own spiritual intuition, know what parts of it should be carried over into the Holy Nights and which bits should be removed.
The author points out that Advent was about preparing for this visitor and now we must make room for him! He is come! We may express this joy throughout the continued celebration of the Holy Days. Druitt suggests letting this celebration live through things such as carols, stories and presents.
An idea he suggests for the obvious separation of Christmas and the Holy Days, is the obvious separation of the story. We can keep the three kings hidden from view until after the birth, allowing them to arrive on January 6.
Druitt writes about the appropriate use of the Christmas tree, saying that it should not be lit in any way until Christmas Eve. I completely understand his reasoning, however, how to reconcile this with existing family tradition is another matter. If I were to attempt to change long-standing family traditions based on my own spiritual practice, I don’t know that it would be well received. In fact, it could be perceived as a selfish act, which is, of course, the opposite of the selflessness we are trying to cultivate. Does anyone else have ideas on this? How do you balance your own spiritual growth/practice and its manifestation in your actual celebrations and the existing family traditions?
I truly loved Druitt’s idea of looking ahead at the year to come, month-by-month, as corresponds to each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I will definitely use this this year. He points out that when we think about something ahead of time, we are able to meet it much more deeply. He says that when we consider the months in this way, when we meet them during the year, they will often be more challenging and demanding than before. He points out the value of this looking-ahead process by equating it with looking ahead at our days. He says, “We wake up differently in the morning if we have planned the day beforehand, and so it is with the year”.
In summary, Druitt reminds us that a birth unites the people around it. “The birth of Jesus unites humanity”.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter. How are you enjoying the book so far?
I hope your Christmas celebrations were filled with joy and contemplation.